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'Madness': Mayor Bibb and safety officials address gun violence in Cleveland

Mayor urges Congress to act on gun legislation
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Posted at 3:24 PM, Jun 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-08 11:07:17-04

CLEVELAND — On Tuesday, Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb held a press conference to address the tragic gun violence in the city and country and urged state and federal politicians to act on gun legislation to save lives and end the "madness" that is happening in America.

The mayor was joined by Cleveland Interim Chief of Police Dornat "Wayne" Drummond, Safety Director Karrie D. Howard and EMS Commissioner Nicole A. Carlton.

Here are the 2022 gun violence numbers in Cleveland:

  • Year-to-date homicides: 61 (52 involving a firearm)
  • Shooting victim age range: 3 years old to 101
  • People shot: 495
  • Gun seizures: 1,054
  • Gun-related suicides: 14

Homicides in Cleveland hit a 30-year high in 2020 with 179. In 2021, there were 169 homicides, according to the city's data.

You can watch the whole press conference here.

Mayor Justin Bibb addresses gun violence and safety in Cleveland

Mayor Bibb
"I'm both saddened and angry at the level of gun violence we're seeing in Cleveland and across the nation," Bibb said.

The mayor touched on several different topics regarding firearms in the community. He cited data from the CDC that states the leading cause of death of children in the United States is now gun violence."Our children are becoming victims of negligence and victims of thoughtless gun violence," he said. "I feel paralyzed and handcuffed by the lack of real comprehensive gun legislation in Congress and the fact that we have a state that doesn't give me, as mayor, the tools I need to combat the illegal traffic of guns that plague our city."

Bibb spoke with concern about Senate Bill 215 taking effect next week. It allows Ohioans to conceal carry without a license. Cleveland, he said, is looking into legal ways it can combat the bill. Bibb has tasked the city's law director with examining its options regarding conceal carry.

The mayor also spoke about his opposition to arming teachers in schools and said that his administration is working with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District on the matter.

According to the CMSD website, the district has more than 31 high schools and more than 35,000 students enrolled in all age groups.

"Working with CEO Eric Gordon and our school board, we will no longer allow any weapons. Once this bill is passed. We will not allow any weapons inside CMSD, and I'm urging ... every school in the city and every district in this region not to allow weapons in our schools because arming our teachers with guns is not the solution," Bibb said.

"I do not in any way support arming teachers and plan to bring a resolution before the Board at the June 14th Board Work Session affirming again that CMSD will not permit teachers to bring weapons into our schools or onto our campuses," Gordon said.

As for solutions, the mayor laid out several things the city is doing to curb gun violence. The city recently was the recipient of a $1.7 million state grant that will help "crack down on violence in our city," he said.

Sarah Buduson on what the city is doing:

Cleveland's plans to combat gun violence

Funds will help pay for youth activities to keep them out of gangs. Money will also be used to buy a system called the National Integrated Ballistics Network that is aimed at solving gun crimes. Money will also go towards expanding the violent crime reduction teams the city has in place, the mayor said.

RELATED: The crime behind the crimes — More than 2 guns stolen in Cleveland every day, on average

"We're also working with local and federal partners to truly adopt an all-of-government approach across the City of Cleveland to prevent crime before it starts," he said.

Rob Powers talks to Antonio McMullen of Cleveland Peacemakers.

How the gun violence crisis is impacting our community

The city will use programs like midnight basketball and partner with faith leaders across the city to address crime at the neighborhood level.

Police officers in the First and Second districts are also required to spend at least an hour of their shift "walking the beat" and interact with the community up close and firsthand in a non-enforcement way to increase visibility and trust with the public.

"This issue will not be solved overnight, but know that we are working tirelessly in the administration to combat gun violence all across our city," Bibb said.

Bibb also urged the public to act at an individual level by picking up a phone and getting a hold of state and federal politicians to pass laws that can make the city, state and country safer.

"It's madness right now that a majority of Americans support background checks, red flag laws, raising the age to buy a gun in this country to 21. So I'm encouraging everybody in this city to call their member of Congress, and I'm pleading Congress to take real action, particularly in the U.S. Senate, to pass some form of gun legislation. As mayor, I don't have the luxury of passing the buck to the next legislative session. Congress needs to act, and every citizen in the city and in the state should plead with a member of Congress to take action now. This is madness," he said.

Safety Director Howard
The safety director said the rise in gun violence is impacting the Cleveland Division of Fire as well as Cleveland EMS, who are out on a daily basis responding to tragic situations.

"Our first responders are on the streets, they're given their lives every day, and this year has been a significant stress," Howard said.

Howard also spoke about the conceal carry bill and urged anyone who may carry to get the proper training.

"With the legislation that is coming, we urge every citizen to receive the proper training. If you choose to carry, get the training to understand the power of the weapon that you're going to be carrying. Get the training so you know what that weapon can do," he said.

Howard addressed the number of gun-related deaths by suicide this year and also urged people who may know someone in mental distress to reach out and get that person help.

"As a veteran, suicide is something that's very personal to me and if you know someone who was in mental distress, get them help, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 216-623-6888," he said.

Interim Chief Drummond
The interim chief talked about the different types of gun violence, such as shootings at home, and how such incidents can be prevented.

"As a police officer for 33 years, I'm thinking to myself, 'What can I do? What can we do collectively to prevent those things from happening? What can we do?' And I'm telling you as a parent, as a police officer, and primarily as a police officer, for prevention, it's very little I can do," Drummond said. "There's very little my 1,300-1,400 officers can do. Just individuals have to take ownership and responsibility and have responsible gun ownership."

The weight of gun violence weighs heavily on Drummond, who is a father and grandfather. Recently, he was told about a 10-year-old who died when a family member discharged a weapon at home. The chief spoke with tears in his eyes as he related the outcome of that shooting.

Interim Cleveland police chief gets emotional talking about 10YO killed

"Be responsible for what you're doing because it affects lives, obviously. You had the 10-year-old now who's deceased. Their family is forever changed. You have the person responsible for it, who's a relative of that child who now has to face those circumstances, situations and consequences," he said.

"Two lives changed forever. Sometimes because of irresponsible gun ownership. You know, I'm just deeply troubled by that. As a father, as a husband, as a grandfather, deeply troubled by that, and I think society should be too and our community should be too as well," Drummond said.

The officers who respond to the shootings, seeing children dead, are affected by it, he said.

"While our officers, they do wear badges, they're mothers, they're fathers, they're uncles, they're aunts. You know, and when they're on scene of these tragic events, it affects them. It affects them. Our officers are not robots. They're human beings and you're affected by this," he said.

One of the officers who responded to the 10-year-old shot was on another scene just weeks before for a 14-year-old who was killed, he said.

"They're suffering, they're suffering. So what I do—we have wellness, we try to take care of our officers as well because again, they're not robots," Drummond said.

Drummond said the city will utilize technology to reduce the number of violent crimes involving guns. This includes increasing the capabilities of its Real Time Crime Center. The city will also add more cameras to areas designated as trouble spots. The city will also continue to use its ShotSpotter system, which is currently "paying dividends" in lowering the response time to shootings in areas where the microphones are placed.

"I can tell you that the Cleveland Division of Police, we're committed. We're committed to do everything we can to reduce the gun violence and provide a stellar service to our community. But it's important to understand, and I'll have to stress this, you know, we can't do it alone...We need your help to help us provide the best possible service to a community and also help with the gun violence," Drummond said.

He continued, "And I've said it before, and I'll continue to say it is important. Understand, historically, police and law enforcement have been reactive. That's what we are. And that's just the reality of it. And it hasn't changed. We try to be as preventative as we can. But we're reactive. You know, something happens—they call, we respond."

By building relationships in the community, Drummond said he hopes his officers will be able to work with residents to take the "bad actors" out of the neighborhoods and stop some instances of crime before it happens.

EMS Commissioner Carlton
Carlton provided some background on the types of calls her crews respond to and how those numbers have grown over the last few years.

EMS Commissioner Nicole A. Carlton
Cleveland EMS Commissioner Nicole A. Carlton

According to the commissioner, there has been a 30% increase in calls relating to "severe trauma from penetrating injuries" from 2019 to 2021. And this year, she said, there has been a significant increase in calls for individuals under 18 years old who have been injured.

"When a child is an unfortunate victim of gun negligence and violence, our hearts are broken, and they fight against the clock to provide emergency care and transport to definitive care. There are miraculous outcomes, but as we now know there are very few," Carlton said."

The EMS crews are affected by each person, each child shot call they respond to. The mental well-being of first responders was a theme that ran throughout the press conference. Cleveland EMS crews work tirelessly, Carlton said, to care for their charges, but in turn, sometimes need emotional help to cope with the trauma they see on a daily basis.

"There's nothing that we can mentally prepare the women and men of the division for the reality of responding to a home where a child, and I say a child as we've all said, has been senselessly shot. Seeing the most innocent among us, the children of our community, with injuries that are incompatible with life as they lie sleeping in their bed or playing outside in their front yard. The acts of violence have taken an emotional toll on all the Division of EMS members," Carlton said.

"We are grateful for our employee assistance programs that provide assistance and help them navigate their feelings of hopelessness and despair. We need them to continue to be able to provide life-saving treatment to the victims of violent and senseless crimes. And I think it's important for everybody to be aware that it's not just the injury. There's all the aftermath that comes after it," she said.

Recent shootings
A look at the shootings and killings we've reported on that have occurred in Cleveland during the last few weeks:

RELATED: Q-and-A with Cleveland interim police chief Drummond

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